Knowing what you should and shouldn't do to deal with joint pain from arthritis.
If you're reading this, chances are you or someone you know has arthritis. It can be tough to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate this condition, but with a few changes, you can keep living your best life. This article is to give you some tips and do’s and don’ts about lifestyle choices.
Talk to anyone who suffers from arthritis and they can tell you they pay a price for choosing to keep doing things they love to do. Some choose to just avoid it or stop doing it altogether, because it’s not worth the pain. A few choose to just do it at a lower, or lesser, degree. A few (like me) choose to do it anyway and recognize that the suffering afterward is sometimes a price we’re willing to pay.
Hear me out on this – at NO time should you be doing activities that would be considered harmful or in any way dangerous for your body and your state of mobility. I may choose to do what I love to do but I’ve realized that there are some things I just simply shouldn’t do. This is about making choices that strengthen your body, give you an increased level of joy, and overall, make life better. Not sure what you can/can’t/shouldn’t to? Talk to your doctor, or better yet, your physical therapist. They understand the science of your body and movement better than you do.
First things first, it's important to monitor your activities to avoid injury. This means being mindful of how much you're doing and taking breaks when needed. It's also important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. If you're feeling pain or discomfort, it's time to take a break or stop altogether. This is a great article on the importance of exercise, that includes some ideas of exercises for those with arthritis.
I heard a great quote from a therapist recently, “The pursuit of perfection is the highest form of self-abuse.” In this context, it’s a reminder for those of us (yes, I’m speaking to me, too) who tend to expect too much of ourselves. We can also get hard on ourselves – thinking we’re “weak” simply because we suddenly can’t do something we used to, or take longer to recover. As I write this, I’m on an enforced rest day because I chose to walk nearly 5 miles yesterday, when I typically only walk around 2. I’m not down on myself. I’ve learned that taking a rest day is essential to help my body recover and restore. I will go back out tomorrow…for a comfortable 1.5 miles perhaps.
How about you? Are you accepting and kind to yourself? Do you recognize that expecting more than is realistic is just not a smart way to think?
The Right Way To Adjust Your Lifestyle
Adjusting your lifestyle to accommodate arthritis is necessary, but finding the right balance of activity, healthy eating, a great mental attitude, all play a part. Don’t avoid exercise altogether – it’s so essential to your health and to supporting your body’s natural healing processes.
When you feel stiff and sore, it’s tempting to just be sedentary, and even worse, indulge in comfort foods. Let’s be honest, when you’re feeling tired and sore, a candy bar or an extra glass of wine feels so good. When you stay vigilant you can avoid these temptations.
Just as we know gravity to be a natural law, so is the fact that nature abhors a vacuum. When you remove something, it needs to be replaced to fill the vacuum. (Why many smokers put on weight when they quit – they fill the vacuum with eating.)
How can we apply this principle to the arthritis situation?
It’s about making the right choices, too. Choosing, in that moment of feeling in pain and frustrated/tired/angry, to make a better choice of activity. Doing something positive also changes the pathways in the brain. Do it often, and you will soon find yourself automatically making better choices in all areas of your life. This is the reason, by the way, that successful people make their bed every day. It sets off a chain of positive momentum for the rest of the day. It’s also why starting the day with some devotional quiet time will normally help you end the day in a positive, happy frame of mind.
Knowing some of the alternative actions is essential to success in making this different choice. Consider keeping some of these ideas in your toolbox for the next time you have a bad arthritis day…
What To Do On A Bad Day:
- Call a friend or family member for a chat. (Avoid negative people – call a person who cheers you up.)
- Write down a few things you are grateful for, in a gratitude journal.
- Go outside (weather permitting) – even if it’s just to do a slow walk around the garden, or a local park. Take time to focus on the beauty of nature. Here’s a pic I took on a recent walk!
- Go to a local park and gently swing, while watching the playing children.
- Get to a pool and just walk in the water – or float – keep your body relaxed and moving slowly.
- Do a few relaxing yoga poses, if you know them, while listening to relaxing music.
- Have a massage.
- Enjoy soaking in a warm tub – maybe even light some candles, play some music, and add your most loved fragrance to the water (together with Epson salts to make it a healing experience.)
What other activities have you found beneficial. SHARE them with us so we can share with everyone else.
You also know by now, if you’re a regular reader, that we advocate for an equally important healthy diet. W
DIET: What you put IN your body, is going to help it or hurt it.
Your body needs all the help you can give it as you fight off the symptoms of inflammation. The choice to shift toward foods that help your arthritis symptoms will be one that gives you a great return on your efforts. Start my exploring some of these, from an article provided by Cleveland Clinic. Get smart about anti-inflammatory foods. Take your Haraka as recommended. Drink lots of water. Remember, we are 80% water as human beings. If you don’t keep your body hydrated, it has to work that much harder to fight off the inflammation and pain.
Instead of telling you all the things you shouldn’t be eating (!) – and you probably know that already, here is a wonderful list of anti-inflammatory snacks from Eating Well magazine. Choose a few to try out and if you like them, make them regularly, so you are never caught short on a bad day and have nothing healthy to snack on.
What other lifestyle changes do you need to make?
Recently, my daughter (in her 30’s) discovered the joy of using a shoe horn! After a good laugh, I pointed out that some many of life’s little aids are overlooked, especially by those with arthritis. My shoe horn has been my favorite for a while now.
Here are some quick ideas, with links. (I don’t get paid for these – simply showing you examples.)
- Shoe horn
- Reaching tool (no more bending, stretching, climbing…)
- Jar opener
- Button closing tool (this one looks amazing…I may try it myself!)
Living with arthritis can be tough, but with a few adjustments, you can still live a full and active life. Remember to monitor your activities, stay active, eat a healthy diet, adjust daily tasks, and pay attention to f your mental and spiritual wellbeing. With these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to adjusting your lifestyle to living with arthritis.
Here’s to YOUR Limber Life!